By: Cris Vilela, Kingston Heritage, Kingston, Ontario 14-Mar-2017 – OPP report that one male is deceased following the multi-vehicle pile-up and chemical spill that took place on Highway 401 in Leeds and Thousand Islands Township Tuesday afternoon.
Ian Meville, 45, of Hamilton, was transported to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Meville was a transport driver involved in the westbound primary collision.
The incident was labelled a “mass casualty event” due to the high number of people exposed to a hazardous material, which leaked from one of the tractor trailers involved.
An OPP investigation revealed that there were in fact two separate collisions. The primary collision occurred just east of Highway 137 and involved five tractor trailers and one car. Police say the driver of one of the tractor trailers has since succumbed to his injuries.
The secondary collision also took place in the westbound lanes, about one kilometer west of the first and involved seven tractor trailers and three vehicles. There were multiple chain reactions after the fact behind those two collisions. In the same vicinity on eastbound Highway 401, three other tractor trailers were involved in collisions.
The leaked hazardous material, fluorosilicic acid, turns into hydrofluoric acid if exposed to heat, according to the Leeds Fire Department. Hydrofluoric acid is a highly toxic, highly corrosive and poisonous solution which is harmful to skin, lungs and eyes. Extrication of the driver carrying the liquid was required after the transport ended up in a ditch. A HAZMAT team was called to the site. The transport was carrying between 7,000 and 10,000 litres of this liquid*, most of which leaked all over the roadway.
Several people were reported to have become covered in the hazardous liquid. The fire department set up a decontamination area in the eastbound lanes to treat those exposed; they were instructed to disrobe and remove contact lenses if they had them.
OPP report that a total of seven firefighters, three police officers and 17 civilians were treated for exposure to the substance as a precaution. Frontenac Paramedics also report that three members of their team were treated for exposure.
Kingston General Hospital declared a Code Orange (Mass Casualty Event) late Tuesday afternoon due to the large influx of patients from the collision scene being brought in for treatment. KGH opened a decontamination bay for all those who were exposed to the chemical. Exposure to the fluorosilicic acid could cause irritation to the nose, throat, respiratory system, irritation, redness or swelling of the skin and severe eye irritation.
The hospital reports that it treated 29 patients in total as a result of the accident, 13 of whom were emergency services first responders who underwent decontamination and were held for observation as a precaution. The Code Orange was declared over at 8 p.m. KGH says their emergency department returned to business as usual operations at that time. The hospital began to discharge some patients involved in the 401 pile-up Tuesday night.
If you believe a family member or loved one may be at KGH as a result of the accident, please call the hotline at 613-549-6666 ext. 4704 for info.
The Ministry of the Environment has been notified and clean-up crews have arrived on site to remediate the area from the chemical spill.
Highway 401 will remain closed indefinitely in both directions between Mallorytown and Lansdowne.
A Wednesday morning news release from the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands said that response crews at the scene of the chemical spill were hampered by the winter storm, which continued overnight. Daylight will offer opportunity for a full reassessment and continued action.
“The Emergency Response Action Plan has been reviewed by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change as well as Hazmat officials and its implementation will be monitored through the day based on current situational analysis” said Mayor Joe Baptista in a press release. “Once again we reinforce that there is no immediate danger to the public and that the site is contained.”
Residents and travellers are encouraged to avoid the area and allow additional travel time to suit weather conditions and detour routes.
More information will be updated as it becomes available.
*Amended from an earlier estimation of 14,000 litres